10 Tips For Holiday Gut Health
When you think of the holidays what pops into your mind? Family? Friends? Laughter? Food? Bingo! Let’s be real. Holidays are always filled with food and I think that’s one of the best parts! Good food shared with good company is truly the way to my heart. But we all know holiday gut health can be tricky.
Because when you have food intolerances, food allergies or IBD (like crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis) this part of the holidays can be hard and become not so fun really quickly. From trying to navigate the snack table without getting sick, to bringing up your food needs in conversation with friends and family before the get-together, it can turn from festive to stressful in a matter of minutes.
Thankfully, my family is extremely supportive and we simply made an entirely paleo and SCD friendly Thanksgiving last year (keep reading to see my recipe round-up!) and are doing so again this year, but I understand that isn’t the case for most people.
Here are my top tips to still being able to enjoy the holidays while honoring your body and special food needs. Holiday gut health doesn't have to be hard with these tips!
1. Start by simply owning your health and your needs:
You can read ALL about this concept in depth on my post about navigating social settings with gut health issues, but here’s a quick recap – just OWN it. Don’t feel awkward or ashamed that you have to make special requests. Act confident and know that it’s perfectly okay to ask for what you need. You have to be your own biggest health advocate.
2. Talk to your friends/family in advance:
If you know where you’ll be spending the holidays, talk to them in advance about your dietary needs! Don't expect them to fully understand right away, but be open and honest. They'll feel even worse if you ended up not being able to eat anything at the get-together. And if you feel uncomfortable asking them to meet your needs, simply explain that you might bring your own food.
3. What if I’m going to a significant others’ house for the first time for the holidays?
Well, I’m single as can be and have never spent a holiday at a boyfriend’s house so I can’t 100% talk from experience, but I can give some advice. I’ve truly never shied away from telling people I’m dating that I have an autoimmune disease or have specific dietary needs, because, well, it’s kind of hard to hide when most first dates surround food. My biggest tip is to, again, be CONFIDENT. If someone truly likes/loves you they won’t mind that you’re a little “high maintenance” (but ugh I hate that phrase) when it comes to the dinner menu. And if you don’t feel comfortable sharing this with your significant other… then maybe he/she isn’t the right person for you. You should always be with someone who support you and never, EVER makes you feel badly for health issues out of your own control.
4. Make your dietary restrictions very clear (or risk getting sick):
Don’t just elude to “oh dairy sometimes doesn’t make me feel good” if you know damn well it’s going to make you curl up in a ball and want to die. People who don’t have food intolerances/allergies/gut health issues sometimes don’t understand the severity of them. So don’t downplay them. Be your own biggest advocate and let them know “hey, I have intolerances/allergies to XYZ and I’ll be sick as a dog if they’re used so NO grandma Becky you cannot just use a little butter on the turkey.” Help educate your loved ones on how to cook safely for you (this will also help in future scenarios!).
5. Bring a dish and dessert to share:
I know it can be overwhelming for someone who’s hosting a holiday meal to hear that someone coming has dietary restrictions, so it’s always nice to offer to bring something you know you can eat. Whether it’s a side dish or a dessert, it’s always comforting going into a big holiday event knowing there’s at least one thing on the table that’s totally fool-proof. It’s also a fun way to show friends and family that the way you eat isn’t boring, bland or sad!! Because if you have a restricted diet you know how often you get those comments. Think of it as a way to keep your tummy happy AND educate the people you love.
6. Pack snacks:
Even after being open and clear with the hosts of the festivities, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Plus, you can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to eat everything included in the meal like everyone else. My solution? Snacks! Having a protein bar, dried fruit, mixed nuts or homemade paleo granola are all great options to keep stashed in your purse. Nothing’s worse than a grumbling tummy when you’re surrounded by foods you can’t eat.
7. Eat a snack before:
If you feel weird packing your own snacks (I’ve totally moved past the point of having any shame when it comes to packing my own food) eat a snack beforehand if you’re still unsure how much you’ll be able to eat at the get-together. This will keep you from having that panic-stricken moment when you realize all you can eat are the roasted veggies.
8. Don’t be afraid to ask questions:
If you’re still nervous about the food at the holiday festivities, ask the host politely what the ingredients are that she/he used. Don’t ask in a condescending or suspicious way, but simply explain, well, the truth! No one will get angry or upset when you ask questions simply because you’re nervous about your own health and well-being. Who can argue with that?
9. Don’t shy away from being asked questions:
On the flip side, don’t feel embarrassed if other people ask YOU questions about your eating habits, whether they heard you talking to the host, tried the dish you brought or saw you eating separate foods. Just act confident and no one will question you (shout out to my girl Sezzy for that life motto). You don’t have to give someone a total rundown of your entire health history, but realize people are simply curious. Answer politely, explain you have health issues you’re looking after and move on.
10. Remember, you’re not a victim:
It’s easy, especially if you’re early on in your gut health journey, to feel sorry for yourself. The holidays can make it especially difficult to stay positive, but I always remind myself that I’m not a victim. I may have gut health issues and it may make the holidays a little trickier, but I am still in control of my health and my decisions. I remind myself that I choose to eat the way I do so that I can feel my best. Plus, if you follow these steps and are proactive about your health during the holidays there should be no issue at all. :)
And many of you were curious about WHAT foods we make for our paleo / SCD friendly Thanksgiving so here’s a little roundup. We don’t have this year’s menu 100% planned, BUT here’s a rought estimate:
Turkey: Duh. We just cook it with spices and use its own drippings to make it not get dry!
Paleo gravy: My mom experimented with this the other day and she simply mixed the turkey fat (sorry not sorry if that grosses you out) and Bob’s Red Mill paleo flour mix (not technically SCD because there’s cassava in it, but a good paleo option!). Sorry, I don't have the measurements!
Kohlrabi and cauli mash: I just posted the recipe for this dreamy goodness a few days ago and it’s seriously SO GOOD. The roasted kohlrabi tastes a lot more like potatoes, so it takes it up a notch (read more about kohlrabi and SCD on that recipe!)
Acorn squash casserole: I created this recipe last year and it’s still one of my absolute favorites. Sweet potato casserole used to be my jam growing up, so this is the perfect swap!
Paleo stuffing: This stuffing is SO good and tastes like the real deal, but is made with the simplest paleo ingredients. Stuffing was never my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner, but this is a dish I can get behind.
Citrus cranberries: My brother makes this every year and I love them because they’re super tangy. He uses a recipe similar to this one.
Seasonal roasted veggie medley: I’m not sure what veggies we’ll be using this year, but all I know is brussel sprouts will be included!!
Appetizer ideas: We always have a fun spread of snacks out throughout the day while we cook and wait for the big meal and there are always lots of options that I can eat. Some good ideas would be mixed nuts, fresh veggies, paleo crackers (I like Liberated Specialty Foods herb crackers for an SCD option or Simple Mills for simply a paleo option) and Miyoko's vegan cheese or pesto (I can’t get enough of my vegan avocado pesto), pickled veggies (as long as there are no weird additives) and olives.
Breakfast ideas: I love having festive food all day long, so while I watch the Macy’s Day Parade I’ll probably make my paleo pumpkin spice cauliflower oats, pumpkin spice smoothie bowl or paleo pumpkin scones!
I hope you all have the BEST Thanksgiving! Soak up all of the time spent with loved ones, and of course, enjoy all the yummy eats!!